Bad governance ails us, not corruption

Bad governance, not corruption, ails us

Bad governance, not corruption, ails us

Narendra Modi’s message about the pivotal need to improve governance and reduce government had real resonance for me last week. On the day that he made his speeches in Delhi, I happened to be crossing from the Mandwa jetty, in Maharashtra’s Raigad district, by ferry to Mumbai along with hundreds of other commuters whose main means of transport to the city had been blocked all weekend. This happens often because every time the Navy Chief wants to organise some event at the Gateway of India, all ferries are banned and every time there is a VIP staying in the Taj Hotel, all boat traffic is stopped.

For those of us who need to use the ferry services, this is a matter of huge inconvenience because driving to Mumbai takes many hours and train services to the villages in which we live are virtually non-existent. This is an excellent example of typically Indian bad governance. It would never happen in another democratic country because the whole point about democracy is that citizens are more important than officials of any kind. But, because the transition from colonial to democratic governance took a ‘socialistic’ route in India, the rights of citizens continue to be subordinate to the privileges of officials.

At this point, though, I should explain how I came to be so familiar with the district of Raigad and the Mandwa jetty. Some years ago I started to live part-time in a small village by the sea and it is here that I escape when I want the solitude essential for writing books. So I make regular use of the Mandwa jetty where the ferries from Mumbai land. When I first started coming here 10 years ago, all ferries and private boats docked at an old fishing boat that acted as a buffer between the boats and the worn stone steps that led to a jetty so ancient that rusting iron rods hang from its underside making you wonder how it sustains the weight of the daily commuter traffic.

This is why I was delighted when the Government of Maharashtra decided about five years ago to build a new jetty in Mandwa but my joy was short-lived. No sooner did construction begin than it became clear that what the Government was first building was a rest house for officials and a watchtower for the police. And so it came to pass that an ugly little building came up long before the jetty was complete and although it calls itself a ‘tourist terminal’ only officials are allowed to enter it. After this, a watchtower was built in which a couple of surly policemen now lounge, harassing commuters with random checks that appear to have no clear purpose. Once, when they asked me to open my bag, I asked them what they were looking for and they had no answer.

In any case, finally, when the jetty was built, it was found that the contractor had built it so badly that ferries could not dock at it, so till some months ago landing in Mandwa continued to mean that you had to jump off the ferry onto the old fishing boat and jump from there onto the worn, slippery steps of the old jetty. The new jetty had to be rebuilt so more taxpayers’ money went waste because of bad governance. Some months ago the new jetty became fully operational but already it is beginning to show signs of crumbling. Tiles have started to fall off the steps and there is a general air of disrepair about it that is sure to get worse after the rains.

To put it more bluntly, taxpayers money has been wasted on a piece of infrastructure that is unlikely to last very long and instead of building a breakwater to protect the jetty and make it easier for boats to dock, money has been wasted on a jetty that is almost a carbon copy of the old one.
Often on my journeys to and from Mandwa and Mumbai I have found myself wondering why ordinary citizens do not make a huge racket about what has happened and then I stop wondering because I remember that bad governance in Maharashtra is the norm, not the exception. Two examples from last week alone came from the tragic collapse of that building in Thane and the garbage scandal. When the building was going up in Thane where were the officials who were supposed to make sure that the builders met safety standards? When the Municipal Corporation gave a contracts of Rs 5100 crores to a shady contractor who has so far not made the smallest effort to clear a vast, disease-breeding garbage dump on the edge of Mumbai, where were those whose job it is to ensure that taxpayers money is not wrongly spent? On account of Anna Hazare’s agitation having made ‘corruption’ its war cry, too few people have noticed that the real problem is governance.

Wherever there is good governance, or even relatively good governance, there are rarely instances of corruption. Wherever there is good governance there is usually a better watch kept on the manner in which public money is spent. So it is not a super policeman in the form of a powerful Lokpal who will make the difference it is a serious attempt to improve standards of governance that will make the difference. When Narendra Modi comes to Delhi and tells people this he always illustrates what he is saying with examples of what he has already done in Gujarat to improve governance.

It is Modi’s bad luck that the national media hates him so much that it spends more time demonising him than listening to him. He is autocratic, arrogant and greedy for power, they say, without seeming to notice that he has put ‘su-shasan’ (good governance) at the top of his agenda. Luckily for us there are plenty of people in the Congress who have been paying careful attention and this is why Modi has succeeded in changing the conversation so much that even Rahul Gandhi had to talk about the need for better governance when he made his first major address to the nation in Delhi the week before last. This must mean that the main issue in the coming general election is going to be governance rather than ‘secularism’ and that will make a happy change from elections past. May he who can convince voters that he is serious about improving governance win!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are the author's personal opinions. Information, facts or opinions shared by the Author do not reflect the views of Niti Central and Niti Central is not responsible or liable for the same. The Author is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

Offstumped Report

  • R Prasad

    Agreed that bad governance is also a big issue. But, corruption is also a big issue. Both go hand in hand together.

    The article’s title indirectly and unintentionally makes corruption a smaller issue if not endorses it.

    The apt title would have been:
    Bad governance ails us, like corruption

    • Rajalakshmi

      Thank you very much for writing exactly what I had in mind R.Prasad.

  • Bong

    I would term it as another one of those chicken-and-egg conundrums. Which came first: corruption or bad governance? They both seem to breed off each other. If a guy is indulging in corruption, it follows that he will give us bad governance. On the other hand, a well-intentioned goof can saddle us with bad governance, which leads to corruption, which leads to worse governance…

    Not that this academic discussion makes much diff to the aam admi carrying the burden.

  • Bapty.s





  • Rajalakshmi

    Just because congress is not mentioning “secularism” this time replacing it with “governance” thus stealing Sri.Narendra Modi’s thoughts & ideas let us not be stupidly naive enough to conclude congress has given up espousal of “secularism”. It will continue to mollycoddle evangelicals , crypto christians & certain other vote banks. Congress is SYNONYMOUS with corruption.

    VIPs throwing their weight around is the norm in India. People also gape at them awestruck. When ex -president Shankar Dayal Sharma decided to pay a visit to Shirdi Sai Baba Shrine in Maharashtra at once a helipad was constructed for his helicopter landing. In the process all the greenery that Shirdi SaiBaba HIMSELF has assiduously nurtured were all mowed down.
    Why don’t such poltroons realize OUR MAKER is NOT pining for “visits” from such heartless VIPs.

    When Abdul Kalam announced about his visit to a place in Tamil Nadu at once the authorities took steps in getting rid of musquitoes only within a
    particular radius where Abdul Kalam was supposed to move around chanting
    “dream dream for india to become superpower by 2050”.

  • Panduranghari

    @r prasad
    You have confused the issue. Is bad governance the cause of corruption or is corruption leading to bad governance?

    It seems you havent understood the concept of governance. Just like Anna Hazare and his sidekick Airwind Kejriwal.

    Governance is ensuring systems of delivery are set up to maximise comfort for common man at the same time save money for the government long term by preventing government officials to use their position to subvert their main role. As Modi stated clearly- politicians saying NO more often while bureaucrats saying YES more is governance. The former saying YES while later saying NO is the reason for corruption.

    So its not a chicken -egg scenario. Corruption is the off shoot of poor governance. In good governance the chances to be corrupt decrease in direct proportion to consequences of being punished for the crime.

    I am surprised the talking heads on TV and print media have not understood this.

    BJP guys are you reading this? Use this and puncture AirWind Kejriwals hopes of breaking the anti congress vote.

  • Bong

    Speaking of governance, we need fewer laws, fewer departments and fewer ministries.

    We have multiple laws overlapping and causing confusion. e.g. the Penal Code defines a juvenile as 12 and the Juvenile Justice Act says it is 18 years. The Environment Protection Act intrudes on almost every other law’s patch. You can get clearance from the environment wallahs but the same may also be needed from the local body. There is so much legislation, Central and of the various States, that a judge can go mad trying to reconcile all of them (and one eminent retired Justice has indeed given indication of having lost his marbles).

    As for the departments and Ministries, anyone intent on improving governance wouldn’t get anywhere with pruning scissors; it’s a chain saw that would be needed. The Planning Commission belongs in the same garbage heap where the Soviet style of government went. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has no place in a democracy. In fact, whenever i hear “the Minister of I&B”, immediately the name of Dr Josef Goebbels comes to mind, i wonder why.

    The Railway Minister (why on earth must a minister run railways; it’s an engineer’s and businessman’s job) too must go into the bin. Other Ministers/Ministries that need to keep them company in the trash can are: Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Ministry of Planning, Minister of Food Processing Industries, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Minister of Human Resource Development, Minister of Textiles, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Minister of Culture, Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Minister of Water Resources, Minister of Rural Development, Minister of Urban Development, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Minister of Labour and Employment, Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Minister of Panchayati Raj, Minister of Tribal Affairs, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Coal, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Minister of Steel, Minister of Minority Affairs, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Ministry of Tourism. (That’s 37 of them, i think).

    And i’m not even touching on the completely superfluous Ministers of State, with their respective bureaucracies. Not to speak of the Minsters in the various States. And below them the local bodies (Mayors, Pradhans etc). With so much government it’s a wonder we have governance of any kind at all.

  • Hari Om

    Those who in the media and outside masquerade as secularists are actually communalist of communalists. It appears they do want the country to have a strong government that believes in the concept of state and nation and that unites, and not divide people by taking recourse to politics based on issues of governance and nation and people-centric economic. There are reports that some “hostile nations” are funding certain political parties and individuals so that a strong government is not formed in India and Modi is prevented from becoming Prime Minister. As for the people of this country, which is passing through a very critical phase in its 65 years of independence, bulk of them wants Modi to lead the country.

  • kamal khandelwal


    I would rather say mis-governance and corruption are two side of the same coin , law deliberately circumvented for self aggrandizement.

    • panduranghari

      Correct. Mis-governance and corruption are 2 sides of the same coin.

  • AAP Watch

    Tavleen, Tavleen – please get the basics right. What bad governance? It is excellent governance. The purpose of governance is to enrich and empower the governors. The said jetty has fulfilled its purpose most admirably. Do you think anybody is running a charity for your benefit? Obviously the tax revenue belongs to those who govern. You are confused. Sorry to be so blunt.

  • Sampath

    There are millions of examples like what you write about and everyone knows about it across India. But unfortunately the people in power do not care and the media are their handmaidens. They are worse than the British rulers. Why should they bother about governance and corruption as long as it brings in the personal moolah.

  • Mango Pulp

    According to Wikileaks even in 1970s the US called the Congress party the United Givers Union, probably meaning that a share of graft money from every source at every level eventually found its way into the party coffers. Many new people have joined this party since the ’70s and they fully knew what it means. They’re in it for the money, governance be damned. Governance? What governance? It’s only corruption they’re interested in. And that’s what we are getting in spades. Right now even bad governance would be some relief. We’re only a functioning anarchy (there, I’ve quoted another Yankee John Kenneth Galbraith so I must be an American agent!)


  • Man Singh Tosaria

    Majority of us are corrupt. More particularly, in coalition govt. it is very difficult to exercise control on coalition partners. Things are getting worse day by day. Projecting Narendra Modi by NDA is not going to solve the problem. Narendra Modi might have won third time but it cannot get a certificate of being a good administrator. He is an autocrat. 2002 govt. managed riots, rather killing and nailing the hapless minorities are what we don’t want to rehappen in anywhere in India. There is a clear move to instigate division on religious lines before 2014 elections. BEWARE.

  • balvinder

    truly said may the one who really intends to improve win. amen!
    however modi should know that corruption is the major issue which ofcorse is the child of bad governance.

  • Harshad

    Less government means less scope for corruption. The first step for corruption Is to expand government so that corruption can be done. Best way to limit corruption is less government with good governance.